For those who haven’t heard, starting this May-June, readers of The Times and The Sunday Times online will be forced to pay a fee or subscription in order to read news from one of Britain’s biggest and most trusted news sources. Some 20 million monthly readers of the two sites will be effected by a change that analysts say will cause “almost all” of the online readers to look elsewhere for their daily dose.

Both sites, currently under the ownership of Rupert Murdoch’s News International, will soon have a £1 per day or £2 per week fee to access articles. Also launching this June is a new site called Times+ which will feature exclusive events, offers and extras and will cost £50 per year as a stand alone subscription.

The new roll out of both sites aren’t short of bells and whistles to tempt long time readers into taking the plunge and subscribing for the once free content. I was recently able to preview the revised sites, and it’s safe to say they definitely have an elegant, glossy design. This risky crossover surely has undergone countless hours of research, design and testing to assure the switch goes off without a snag. It’s safe to say that if there were massive problems, the already weary paying customer may be scared off for good.

One of the major selling points I’ve been able to discern from the new sites are the interactive features that are sure to be unique and informative. To name a few:

  • Exclusive photo gallery and online video
  • Daily live Q & A – quiz your favorite journalists
  • Interactive graphics and more

Still though, are rivals the Guardian and the Telegraph chomping at the bit as one of their competitors enters into the forest of the unknown? In short, Yes. Both are sticking by their tried and true format of free online articles and news. The Daily Mail Online will also stick with their format of free articles saying, “A pay-wall MIGHT make a little money — we will make a lot.” So who will pay for news?

What Does This Mean for Readers of EPL Talk?

The answer to that question of course depends on how much you frequent the site itself for news and articles. Obviously, most readers of this site will peruse the articles from the football section of the Times Online which feature some of the best writers in the UK including, but not limited to Patrick Barclay, Oliver Kay, Gabriele Marcotti and more.

Will You Pay?

James Harding, editor of the Times, recently stated that the paper is “going to lose a lot of passing traffic”, yet also added that the pay basis was “less of a risk than just throwing away our journalism and giving it away for free”. Regardless of your opinion, Harding’s comments were definitely of an interesting perspective from a man who realizes the risk of the new format. But “throwing away our journalism” may be a step too far.

I can’t see myself paying for content when I can get similar and equally as good writing and reporting from other UK based sites. And what’s to become of the highly popular TheGame Podcast? Will the Times attempt to charge for the weekly show that features Nick Szczepanik and Marcotti? This and other variables, such as the impending success or failure of the change over to a paid format are still widely unknown.

I believe that if a paid format is to truly work, what’s being paid for must offer something that one couldn’t simply find elsewhere. In an age where not only every news outlet has a website, but also a mobile app, the market for instant and free information is so saturated it makes a paid format almost laughable.

What’s to become of the new Murdoch method of setting up a paywall for The Times? Will other news sources soon follow Murdoch’s lead? Will such a risky business model thrive or fail in these still volatile economic times?

We’ll all know in a few short months, but until we do, enjoy your free articles on The Times while you can.